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Field Guide to Mushrooms of Western North America

Mike Davis (Author), Robert Sommer (Author), John Menge (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 472 pages
ISBN: 9780520271081
September 2012
$26.95, £21.00
Other Formats Available:
California and the Western States are rich in abundant and diverse species of mushrooms. Amateur mushroom collectors and mycologists alike will find over 300 species of the region’s most common, distinctive, and ecologically important mushrooms profiled in this comprehensive field guide. It provides the most up-to-date science on the role of fungi in the natural world, methods to identify species, and locations of mushroom habitats. With excellent color illustrations showing top and side views of mushrooms of the Western States and a user-friendly text, it is informative but still light enough to be carried into the woods. When used to identify mushrooms, keys bring the reader to individual species, with a descriptive text providing cues for identifying additional species. Mushrooms common in urban landscapes are included, which is especially useful for the casual encounter with backyard fungi. The guide also provides a table of both old and new species names, and information on edibility and look-alikes, both dangerous and benign.

A section on mushroom arts and crafts features mushroom photography, painting, philately, spore prints, dyes, and cultivation. The guide also offers a comprehensive list of resources including national field guides, general mushroom books and periodicals, club and society contact information, and web sites.

· Primary descriptions and illustrations of 300 species of mushrooms plus text descriptions of many more.

· Latest word in mushroom taxonomy and nomenclature. Clear discussion of DNA sequencing and new classifications.

· Especially good coverage of southern California and Southwestern mushrooms often neglected in other field guides.
1. Introduction
2. What is a Mushroom?
3. Fungal Ecology
4. Collecting Mushrooms
5. Classification
Quick identification guide to major groups
6. General Keys
7. Species Descriptions
8. Fungal Arts and Crafts
9. Mushroom Cultivation
10. Toxins
11. Resources

Appendix 1. Table of spore colors and genera
Appendix 2. Synonyms, name changes, and misapplied names
Acknowledgments and Contributors of photographs
R. Michael Davis is Professor of Plant Pathology at University of California, Davis. Robert Sommer is Distinguished Professor of Psychology Emeritus at University of California, Davis, and the author of Personal Space and Tight Spaces, among other books. John A. Menge is Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at University of California, Riverside.
“There’s information in this book you need to have.”—
“Provides the most up-to-date science on the role of fungi in the natural world, methods to identify species, and locations of mushroom habitats. With excellent color illustrations showing top and side views of mushrooms of the Western States and a user-friendly text, it is informative but still light enough to be carried into the woods.”—Birdbooker Report/The Guardian
“Helpful to all western mushroom pickers because it provides the latest scientific information in a scholarly yet readable fashion from professional plant pathologists. . . . The book provides valuable information on how to identify edible mushrooms, though there is no fool-proof test for edibility.”—Portland Oregonian
“The book is well written . . . and should be a useful addition to the field guide collections of western mushroom hunters, particularly those in California.”—The Mycophile
“Essential for not only identifying all the varieties but also assessing which of the fungi are safe for culinary use. . . . If mushrooms interest you, purchase this guide book. It’s perfect for slipping into a pocket or backpack and will enable you to identify what you find on your nature rambles.”—Robert Walch The Salinas Californian
"This is a wonderful addition to the mycological literature for both professionals and amateur mycophiles! A field guide with an emphasis on California mushrooms is long overdue."--Greg W. Douhan, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, University of California, Riverside.

“The perfect update to a classic mushroom field guide. This book combines

excellent images and useful keys with up-to-date scientific findings on


David Rizzo, Professor of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis

1. Introduction

Of the lower 48 states, those in the West have the most diverse landscape. Within their borders lie the tallest mountain (Mt. Whitney at 14,494 feet) and the lowest point (Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level). There are rain forests, deserts, volcanoes, foothills and valleys, and thousands of miles of coastline. This variation affects the types of mushrooms found and the timing of their appearance. Fall and winter are the best seasons for mushroom hunting along the coast and in the foothills. Mushroom clubs in the Pacific Northwest and in northern California often schedule their coastal forays October through January, months when the high mountains are snow-covered, with no hint of fungi except for the occasional tree conk. High elevations are productive for fungi after snowmelt in late spring, although fall can be productive when there is rain and no frost. The Rockies and high mountains in Arizona can be very productive in late August following monsoon rains. Spring is morel season in much of the West. Inland valleys are not as productive for fungi as coastal areas but mushrooms can be found in many locations during the rainy season and on watered lawns throughout the year.

Fig. 1 Photo of Morchella elata

Individual species of mushrooms are typically associated with specific habitats. The Black Morel, Morchella elata, sometimes fruits in large numbers in montane forests the year following a forest fire.

Uncertainty is an attraction of mushroom collecting. Fruiting is predictable but never certain. Unless you have seen something a few days earlier with your own eyes, you can never be sure of what is in the field at a given time. Mushroom fruiting depends on the alignment of season, temperature, and moisture. If any of these factors is unfavorable, fungi will be sparse or non-existent. If there has been no moisture during the mushroom season, mushrooms are not likely to fruit that entire year. An early frost may have a similar effect.

Moisture is less of an issue for foragers along the fog-shrouded coast, but for those who seek mushrooms inland or in the Southwest where there are two seasons- dry and wet- mushroom hunting for much of the year is restricted to irrigated orchards, lawns, and gardens. There is also the matter of access, which is more of a problem in some locations than in others. Private land may be posted with No Trespassing signs, and park land is often off-limits. Most National Forests are open to non-commercial foraging but may require a permit. Some mushroom clubs have made special arrangements with a local agency to allow picking. If you are willing to pay a fee, there are organized forays on private land, typically with meals and overnight accommodations nearby. These proprietary forays are advertised in mushroom periodicals and club newsletters. Contact information for mushroom clubs and organizations is found in Section 11 (Resources).

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